What was Lucrezia Borgia like? Murderer and victim

What was Lucrezia Borgia like? Murderer and victim
Isabel del Rio
Lucrezia Borgia, by Dosso Dossi

Lucrezia Borgia, by Dosso Dossi

The Renaissance, her time, was a complicate time, more in the Italian peninsula, her homeland. She was born in Rome, in 1480. The Italian powerful families were fighting constantly to have more power, what in fact meant to survive (weak families were eliminated mercilessly). Her father was the cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, one of these powerful men looking for success. But Rome was a peculiar kingdom since to be king there, it meant to be a Pope. Then, religion and politics mixed, and the Pope was a warrior, a prince and a man of faith at the same time, depending on the days. When Rodrigo Borgia was named Pope (Alexander VI) in 1492, he behaved as the previous Popes had behaved and as his successors will. Our current ethics deplores his way to act, but if he had behaved as a saint, Alexander VI would have died as a saint too: tortured by his enemies.

Furthermore, Rome was an independent kingdom with a little army. France and Spain wanted to control it for reasons of prestige and strategic.

Rodrigo Borgia (http://yareah.com/?p=594) was supported by Spain, by Isabella of Castile (http://yareah.com/?p=3478), because he had born in Jativa (Valencia, Spain): Rome will be in the point of being invaded by France in several occasions, by France and its allies: different little states of that divided Italian peninsula.

All worth to survive, specially the family members and Rodrigo Borgia used his children to assure good alliances.

Lucrezia Borgia’s mother was the beautiful and clever Vanozza Cattanei, a courtesan who knew how to love men.

Then, Lucrezia Borgia grew up in this environment, obeying her family. Her first marriage was with Giovanni Sforza because his father wanted an alliance with the families who ruled the North of Italy. Bad marriage and here, it starts the legend. Alexander VI broke with the Sforza family and annulated her daughter’s marriage. Motive: “impotentia coeundi” (Giovanni Sforza was not a true man and he couldn’t consummate the marriage relationships). However, Lucrezia was pregnant and Mr Sforza, angry, accused her of incest. He said Lucrezia made love with his own father and with his brother, Cesar, who was organizing a better army to protect Rome at this moment… Yes, a peculiar family with a new handsome child.

possible Lucrezia Borgia in Ferrara

possible Lucrezia Borgia in Ferrara

Lucrezia Borgia (in a Papal statement, Alexander VI affirmed she was still virgin) married then with Alfonso of Biscaglie because, again, his father was looking for a political alliance. This time with Naples. It seems she loved this husband but when alliances were modified, his father will kill Alfonso.

What was Lucrezia like? Half courtesan, half religious woman. She cried a lot for Alfonso, she did penance and prayed but she continued obeying his father and married again with Alfonso d’Este.

This last marriage was quieter and she tried to behave as a decent mother of 4 children and to promote the arts in Ferrara, her new land (Lucrezia was a well-read person). Anyway, her restless spirit betrayed her and she fell in love with the poet Pietro Bembo… little marital discussions… Who can be free of marital discussions?

In the end, she died as a worthy Duchess of Ferrara after having been accused of several murderers and poisonings. Lies?

The truth is that the Catholic Counter-reformation and the Protestant moral changed our way of thinking and the Borgias, also Lucrezia, are now seen as demons and not as people of their time.

Lucrezia Borgia’s portraits were even burnt or hidden and now, we don’t know her face as it usually happens with the literary protagonists of a legend. Is she only a legend?

Years of work by conservator Carl Villis of the National Gallery of Victoria, in Australia, have revealed a true portrait of Lucrezia Borgia by Renaissance painter Dosso Dossi. Titled Portrait of a Youth when it was bought in London in 1965, it could have been painted in 1520.

Sleeping with a sexy Lucrezia Borgia

Sleeping with a sexy Lucrezia Borgia

“What was previously a portrait of an unknown sitter by an unidentified artist, now seems likely to be one of the most significant portraits surviving from the Renaissance,” Director Gerard Vaughan said.

Anyway, it’s the portrait of a strong young woman, with a dagger in the hand and a strict look: no sexy, no seducer, she is a clever person, decent dressed and willing to attack whatever enemy: a real Lucrezia Borgia.

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Isabel del Rio

Managing Editor at Yareah® Magazine. Author of ‘Ariza’ (2008) and ‘The Girls of Oil’ (2010)

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